Congregation Remembers Buddhist Priest Killed in Temple Fire

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FORT SMITH (KFSM) - A Buddhist Priest is dead after a fire started inside his temple in Fort Smith early Thursday morning (Mar. 5).

Fort Smith Fire Marshal Ronnie Rogers said Souphanh Inthalangsinh is the name of the 68-year-old priest.

He has been with the congregation in Fort Smith since it moved to the location on High Street in 1988, according to Virapol Sengmanivog, a member of the congregation.

"Souphanh was a very mild-mannered person," Sengmanivog said. "Always willing to give you advice -- he was a teacher of the religion so anytime you had questions about the religion, he would take his time to just sit with you and explain tradition and the teachings of Buddha to you."

Sengmanivog said it's possible a Buddhist priest from either Wichita or Springdale may fill in for the time being.

Battalion Chief Boyd Waters said the temple, located in the 2200 block of High Street, went up in flames around 12:15 a.m. Thursday.

"Once we got on scene, the whole thing was pretty much engulfed," Waters said. "There was no chance we could do an interior attack so they set up an exterior operation with Ladder One there on High Street. Another truck then came in on the Activity Center side and set up operations over there to battle this fire."

Rogers said the fire is still under investigation, and the cause is unknown.

"And it may not ever be determined," Rogers said.

Waters said this is the first deadly fire in Fort Smith in 2015. Fire crews said the priest lived in the temple and they believe he was sleeping at the time of the fire.

A member of the Buddhist community sent 5NEWS a link to a Go Fund Me account. Click here to donate and read more.

The photos in the video of Souphanh Inthalangsinh and the congregation are courtesy of Aaron Chokbenboun.

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